Pauly’s Perspective

In January I wrote my President’s greeting and announced that SDAF had pledged to enhance our programming to provide a place that sparked community conversation, inviting you to take part in our exciting 2022 event roster where we would connect in real life, enjoy a cocktail, and perhaps even do a few inspired napkin sketches…and you know I’ve done my best at that.

Six months later I couldn’t be more impressed with our Board of Directors and wonderful volunteers. They made the commitment to thoughtfully move forward, and deliberately embrace change to the benefit of our community. Hats off to these people and their drive to provide all San Diegans access to Design in our region.

Some Highlights:
Just this month we saw the reward of a careful decision we made a year ago. We simplified our membership participation and offered just two options to the public. We now have only two membership types – either free or a paid VIP. This has seen our roster grow by over 170% in one year due to the tireless efforts of our Membership Director, Michelle Harrison-McAllister, and a well-supported team of volunteers.

In March our PKN (PechaKucha) team put on their 40th program in San Diego! It is an amazing number considering there are only 3-4 per year. And when the special video tribute arrived from Global, PKN Worldwide it really cemented the significance of the milestone. We also have the benefit of SDAF Vice-President David McCullough, having been involved since PKN #1. He along with Directors Larry Herzog & Jonathan Gonzalez (our newest BoD member) are currently working on Vol. 41 for September 2022, which is being curated by SDAF Past-President Maxine Ward of Studio E. Just when she thought she escaped SDAF we pulled her right back in!

SDAF also added two new quarterly events; The Taste of Design and the Design Film Series presented by Thompson Building Materials. The Film Series showcases advanced screenings of critically acclaimed art, architecture, and design films from around the world. And the Taste of Design highlights restaurants that are noteworthy for their architecture and interior design. These events are something I really look forward to, and value the thoughtful discussions that take place afterward. Especially when they are fueled by one of our sponsors, Tito’s Vodka.

And then finally, Orchids & Onions. I hope you have saved October 6th, 2022, on your calendar for this year’s event. You’ll recognize some very familiar features of the program and notice some edits as well. For the first time in 16 years, we’ve made some changes to the nomination criteria and process. It didn’t happen overnight and has been a year-long journey with focus groups, committee review, Board discussion and feedback from past participants.

When I rejoined SDAF last year, I had the goal of evaluating our Orchids & Onions program. Since its origination, the program has been celebrated for its intent, but has become widely criticized for its delivery. In our stewardship of the 46-year-old program we have lost sight of our responsibility to promote a dialogue about our built environment. We’ve lost the trust of both the industry and the public by not investing the time and resources to research, engage & educate. And instead have engaged in a dialogue of negativity and spectacle. I know we can do better and now is the time. And so, we are revamping the Orchids & Onions program in a meaningful way. When you visit O&O website this year, we will be listing a series of new Orchid & Onion categories for submissions, expanding award opportunities for smaller urban-infill scale projects, as well as large concept ideas, the kind that envisions the next 100 years for San Diego.

Along with new categories, there is a clear outline of our commitment to putting in the work to research & engage with all Onion recipients in the most transparent manner possible. We intend to curate short educational videos on all Onion awards, to be showcased at the ceremony. Additionally, will be accepting all categories of projects as Onion nominations so that we can identify & stimulate discussion about design trends in our built environment. Finally, in the boldest change, this program has ever seen, we will be instructing our Jury of Design Professionals to award Onions only to publicly-funded projects.

These are all big changes, but they better express our commitment to fostering a positive & educational dialogue about our built environment. That goal requires this moment of reflection & movement forward in a manner that serves our region through the programming we host.


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San Diego Architectural Foundation



P.O. Box 122228
San Diego, CA 92112-2228
Federal Tax ID: 95-3513927

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San Diego Architectural Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to education and promotion of outstanding architecture, planning and urban design throughout the San Diego region.

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